My first trip to CES in Las Vegas feels more like the sandstorm that overtook Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible: it came on suddenly and I left blinded, coated with bits and pieces of silicon.
I have only begun processing the whirlwind of flashing lights called CES and though fortunate to have an opportunity to immerse myself in the future of consumer technology, those 48 hours left me with just as many questions as answers.
Distraction or enhancement? Tech that integrates social:
We are entering a world where we are connected to friends and foreigners and to the internet, everywhere we go. At CES, I saw dozens of new mobile devices and tablet computers in numerous shapes and sizes. I caught sight of the immediate future where new Samsung TV's and "eco-friendly" washing machines offer “Smart Interaction” — a platform featuring gestures and voice controls and facial recognition. I visited TiVo where they demoed DVR video streaming within their familiar TV interface onto their iPad companion app. I listened to a thoughtful debate on the merits of Social Television by a panel that included Lisa Hsia of NBC, Jean-Pierre Lespinasse of BET and, our very own Frank Radice.
Is this a world consumers want to experience?
Yes and no. Consumers expect an exciting world of brands and branded content in motion. But what I saw at CES forced me to catch my breath. I thought of times that I yearned for more immediate connections: finding an out of the way coffee shop; learning more about a talented singer on The Voice; researching food choices on my Weight Watchers app; and sharing a story with friends on Facebook. But when I am watching televised drama (have you caught the GOP debates?), the last thing I want is a social ticker scrolling across the screen. When I am focused on well-crafted TV content or a well-written story on Men’s Health, don’t bother me. Technology, content, and social strategies need to be addictive, not distracting.
Beware being crowned “King” too soon:
Before leaving for CES, I already understood that all media has become social, and social informs all media. But brands and technologies must have an in-depth understanding of their consumers. Listen to your social audience and speak to them in an appropriate tone. I truly think some of the newest technologies displayed at CES will take off, while others will wither away. But, a line between personal technology and invasive technology should not be crossed! The brands that create poorly designed, overcomplicated, and irrelevant technologies that take away from the experience, don’t do enough “right” and that don’t listen to consumers may find themselves with the next Motorola XOOM Tablet (Winner of the Best in Show for CES in 2011).
And yet, CES also showcased how the mobile and Internet revolutions continue to change lives and commerce in meaningful ways. Throughout the convention center the automotive, healthcare, entertainment, online, robotics, and other industries all showcased a present and future of leveraging apps, phones, and tablets to invent new business models striving to better meet consumer needs. The future looks exciting and...exhausting!
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